So the other day a friend proposed this question to the social media ether, “If just one band that you love would put out one more classic album, what band would that be?” This friend proposes a lot of these questions to the ether and occasionally I’ll bite and throw my two cents in. This one, however, it sort of bothered me.
At first I wasn’t sure why it bothered me. I know these questions are a means to connect with a crowd that isn’t in the same room as you. It’s an existential lifeline if you will, out into a world turned upside down and topsy-turvy and I get it. You’re feeling a little isolated and anxiety-ridden so you throw a virtual friend poll out into the digital wilderness and get a zeros and ones convo happening. I understand that, and I suppose sharing photos of beer and vinyl is a form of that.
But for some reason this question just didn’t sit right with me. I initially started thinking “Well, Wilco? Maybe The Beatles? The Kinks?” But then I was thinking, who needs another classic Beatles album? Or, what can be more classic than Let It Bleed or Who’s Next? Yankee Hotel Foxtrot? Really, more classic than that? It’s like having the greatest meal of your life and then looking at the person that slaved over that meal and saying “Give me something better, okay?” I just wasn’t understanding that. It seems selfish and self-centered in some way, to ask of an artist to top their best. Just one more time. For you.
But then I started thinking about what makes a classic album a classic? Sure there’s the Rubber Soul and the Sticky Fingers and the Summerteeth and the Born To Run, those albums that there’s just a general agreement among, well, the universe, that they are classic albums. But then there’s those “other” classic albums. The ones that are classic to you, regardless of a majority opinion. They locked into your head and heart and rewired you in a way that you can’t describe in words. Just maybe in tears of joy, pain, and awe. They’re classic because of what they did to you. What they did for you.
A classic album is one that reminds you of a time in your life. It takes you back to moments, situations, people, emotions, and experiences that shaped you and your musical tastes for the rest of your life. I feel like its an unfair burden to throw on artists we love to make another “classic” album, when in reality we’re just searching for those tingly feelings that rose from listening to an album they already made 20, 30, 40, even 50 years ago.
I feel like I have the musical arsenal to find my way back to those feelings, you know? I can remember feeling small and frightened sitting on the couch in my parents living room hearing “Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite”, being reminded of the opening credit scene to Night Gallery. Or hearing “Last Child” while sitting in the backseat of my mom and dad’s Honda Accord and realizing I wanted to learn to play the guitar. Or at 15 hearing “Tom Sawyer” in what would end up being my first car, a 1977 Chevy Nova, driving to Witmer Woods with my parents to find leaves for my Environmental Science leaf collection. I don’t need The Beatles, Aerosmith, or Rush to make me one more “classic” album to relive those moments.
I can remember listening to “Wake Up Dead” in my brother’s 1987 Mazda pick-up as we drove to the Concord Mall on a hot summer day and thinking it was the greatest thing I’d ever heard. Or listening to “Ice Nine” in my bedroom for the first time and feeling as if everything I knew about guitar had changed forever. Or in 1996 sitting in the La-Z-Boy recliner my wife and I bought for our first house and listening to “Sunken Treasure” on headphones and feeling like I’d found my Beatles. I don’t need Megadeth, Joe Satriani, or Wilco to make me one more “classic” album to relive those moments.
There’s countless classic album moments for me. And the great thing is that they keep happening. I keep my head and heart open for new things. Every year I find new classic albums. Bands like High On Fire, Bear In Heaven, Can, Tangerine Dream, Spoon, Boards of Canada, Oneohtrix Point Never, and countless others have given me those “classic album” moments, year after year.
Sure, there are albums by the Stones, Beatles, Kinks, and Wilco that sit at the highest plateau in my mind that they haven’t ever topped. But one person’s Exile On Main Street is another person’s Steel Wheels. A Ghost Is Born is one of my personal favorites from Wilco, but someone else might find Wilco(The Album) their favorite. It’s all subjective, man.
This is an awful lot to ponder just over someone else’s social media question, I know. And there’s really nothing wrong with the question in general. It’s like asking for one more big love in your life from your favorite artist. I just feel like if you want those feelings, throw that album on the turntable that rewired your brain all those years ago and let it take you to those moments again. Or if you’re looking for new feelings, open your brain and let some new vibes sink in. Or not.
Either way, enjoy the meal in front of you. As opposed to pining for the one that isn’t.